Sunday, 1 January 2017

How Do You Eat an Elephant

Happy New Year!  How has your day been so far?  I hope it didn’t begin with a hangover and if it did, I will admit to feeling a bit envious.  I realise I’ve contradicted myself there. 

Something has been rattling around in my head of late.   Something besides my brain, that is.   A little thought.   As I am prone at this time of year, I like to make plans for the next 12 months.  Not big ones.   I’m all for a challenge but I also like to win sometimes.  New Year’s resolutions are a recipe for disaster and a sure-fire way to fail if you ask me.

But then I reckon it also depends on what you set your mind to and more importantly, the steps you take to making that goal happen.

Last year I decided on two things:  one was to train for and complete a 10k.   The other was to get published in some shape or form once a month.

I received a medal for being the first lady across the finish line for the 10k race and I can claim to a 70% success rate for the writing part.

As far as I am concerned, those are achievements.

This year I plan to look at something that was successful for me in 2016, examine how I did it and work at doing it again.  I also want to take an area that wasn’t so rewarding and improve on it for this year.

It helps that the areas I have mentioned above bring me immense and satisfaction so I don’t foresee many problems for 2017.

I say that now.

But I learned that little steps can earn huge rewards.    

And to answer the elephant question.   The answer is, one bite at a time.

Happy New Year.  I wish you all the best in your dreams and endeavours for 2017.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A Short Story for Christmas

Hollie was so cross she wanted to use her favourite bad word to show just how cross she was but she knew if she did she would just get into Even More Trouble.

It was Christmas holidays from school and Hollie was really bored. She thought she might like to play with her Frozen jigsaw but hadn’t seen it in ages.  She suspected it had been stored away in The Press upstairs.   The Press was really a walk-in closet where things like summer clothes, the Halloween decorations, beach gear and old toys were stored.   It was Always Locked but the key hung from a little hook at the top of the door.  Her big brother Chris could reach it by standing on his tippy toes but Hollie needed a little help.

She dragged the small stool from her parents’ bedroom and stood on it to take down the key.  Very quietly she slipped it into the lock. 

Hollie nearly died of fright when her mother came racing up the stairs yelling at her to get down off the stool and what did she think she was doing, opening The Press?  She said lots of other stuff too like Minding Her Own Business and how Hollie Should Be Outside Playing and Not Snooping Around.

Hollie was directed back downstairs with a very firm hand.  Looking over her shoulder she saw her mother pocket the key to The Press and muttering what Hollie called a “swear prayer” under her breath.   Another thing that aggrieved her.  If Mammy could say Jesus Mary and Joseph whenever she liked, Hollie thought she should be allowed to as well.
It just wasn’t fair.       

Between her annoying big brother and Getting Into Trouble, Hollie was beginning to wish Christmas was over.  

Just because he was 11 and she was only 8, Chris thought he knew everything, with his nose always stuck in a book and shoving his glasses up his face about seventy million times a day.

Chris made Hollie mad most of all.

She didn’t like the way Mammy and Daddy and Granny and Grandad and everyone on the whole planet told them Santy wouldn’t visit if they didn’t learn to get along together.

The trouble with adults, Hollie concluded, was they were just too busy all the time and they never stopped to see what was going on right under their noses.

Like the time Chris stuck out his foot to trip her up and then laughed as she almost fell.   

They didn’t see when he took the biggest slice of cake or care when he said really quietly so only she could hear, “Looser!  You snooze you lose.”

But they did see when Hollie lost her temper and pushed Chris hard so he fell over and crashed into the Christmas tree, pulling the whole thing down.

They saw that alright.  

It just wasn’t fair!

Dell rinsed out her coffee cup and watched her little daughter stomp and thunder her way through the last of the withered red and orange winter leaves on the ground.  It was at times like these Dell wondered who coined the phrase, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Right then there was nothing wonderful about it at all.  Things were stressful at Christmas and she still had so much to do in just four days.  Now Dell had guilt to contend with on top of everything else.  She told herself it was her own fault for leaving the key where it could be reached.   The kids rarely went to the press but naturally enough when it was filled with santy stuff, sods law would see to it that little people would go snooping where they shouldn’t.  Dell nearly died of fright when she heard the stool being dragged across the floor and thanked her lucky stars she got there just in time. 

In her relief at catching Hollie before she opened the door and saw the Aladdin’s Cave within, Dell had reacted by shouting at her daughter.  She knew she had overreacted and scared Hollie in the process.

It wasn’t fair.   Poor Hollie had been so excited about Christmas as well.  It was all she could talk about.    She had everyone driven mad asking how many sleeps were left and when was the snow coming.  And Chris’s teasing didn’t go unnoticed either.   He was feeling the tension too. His daddy had taken him out for the day to work off some energy and to give “the girls a break.”  

Dell understood her daughter’s excitement.   She remembered feeling that way herself as a child; one year she had literally been sick from it.  Another memory stirred.   She was playing hide and seek with her cousins and stumbled upon the santy loot in the pump house.   According to her mother, Dell had been inconsolable, believing Christmas to be ruined forever and swearing it would never be the same again.   Dell didn’t remember being so upset; her memory was clouded with the delight of having discovered a First Love doll, romper stompers and a cuddly, furry Rainbow Bright in the bags.

Her hands paused in the drying of her coffee cup.  This memory showed five year old Chris playing innocently with the train set he had found under his parents bed.

She had handled it so much better 6 years ago, she realised.  She bundled the toy back into the box and her boy downstairs, rattling off something about the train being a present for one of his cousins.

When Chris received the very same train set on Christmas morning, he had no recollection of having played with it almost four weeks earlier.  Nor did he ask to see the one his cousin was supposed to have gotten when they visited later that same day.

Dell sighed.  Time to make amends.  She rapped on the window.  Hollie looked up, a scowl still on her face and when her mother beckoned her towards the house, Hollie showed her reticence by dragging her heels.

“I’m sorry, love.”  Dell said holding out her arms.  “I didn’t mean to shout like that.  I was afraid you’d fall and hurt yourself.”

Hollie shrugged but she stepped into her mother’s arms all the same. The memory of being shouted at still stung a little.

“Tell you what.”  Dell went on.  “Why don’t we have a go at the gingerbread house now that we’ve got the place to ourselves for a few hours?”

Hollie knew a peace offering when she saw one.  “With a hot chocolate after?”

“With a hot chocolate after.”  Dell agreed, her arms tightening around Hollie.

“And after the gingerbread house and hot chocolate, can we make my Frozen jigsaw?”

“I suppose we can.”    

Hollie felt her mother smile.  She looked up.  “And can we light the special candle even though it’s not night time yet?  I love when it’s lit.  It’s so Christmassy.”

“Anything else?”  Dell asked, happy too that Hollie had perked up.

“Just one more question.”  Hollie grinned.  “How many more sleeps to Christmas?”

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Interviews 2016

For me, I think Christmas begins when the boys get their holidays from school.  Which was today.  At midday.  There is a definite shift in my mood as I have everything done, right down to the last item in the fridge and several lists with very satisfying black lines crossing though the items.   

Ok, so maybe tonight I will pick up one final santy thing but then, let there be no mistake, I will hit the Christmas spirit with a glass in my hand! 

I thought I would get nosey with the boys and see if they are having Christmas feels yet.   

But let’s face it, there are four of them aged 11 (almost) down to five and a half.   Of course they are feeling it.    

So I decided to ask them a few Christmassy questions to get the measure of their thoughts.  

You got your Christmas holidays from school today.  What does it feel like to be so close to Christmas?

First Boy:  Well, at the start of advent I was really excited.  But I’m not that excited now.  I’ll probably be excited on Friday.  And on Christmas eve.  I feel like Friday is kind of in the way.  Saturday will be in the way no matter what but I don’t mind because we’re not used to having the whole day off really so the days go really slowly.  Unless we spend it in town it will probably be boring.  But I will be really excited on Christmas eve.  But the tension will be rising in Friday.  

Second Boy:   It still feels like it’s far away.  

Third Boy:  Really, really excited.  Because you’re getting a lot of presents off santy. 

Smallest Boy:  Coz there’s two more days left!  It’s just like Christmas is getting faster and faster and it never stops moving.   And also the days don’t end.  They might even go twenty meters past Christmas.  And if it does – no wait – also we don’t really know this, but I think Christmas might get 6 metres and 12 metres combined.  Closer and closer.  That’s all.  

What are you most looking forward to about Christmas?

First Boy:  I’m thinking and looking for a way to put it.  Yeah, ok.  I really like St.  Stephens day because like, we have dinner at nana’s and we usually have loads of fun there because Ben’s there and stuff.  And also I think there are two bits I am most looking forward to on Christmas day; in the morning because that’s like, when we open the door and the tension is like, super high.  And after that I like paying with the presents.  And then like, whenever our aunties come over, it’s really good because like, we get more presents. 

Second Boy:    My birthday after it.  Jesus Christ.

Third Boy:  Presents.  No!  Being with family. 

Smallest Boy:  I don’t know.  (He absolutely does and is dying to say presents but he knows this is for my blog!)  Don’t put down I don’t know, Mammy.    

Are there any Christmas traditions in your family?

First Boy:  Going to nanas on St. Stephens day for dinner.   Going to grandads for the party.  And on Christmas day our aunties come to us instead of us going to them.  

Second Boy:  We put up the Christmas tree.  

Third Boy:  Celebrate.  And nana’s.  And celebrate. 

Smallest Boy:  Celebrate Christmas.   There’s a party in grandads every year.   That’s a tradition!

What is Christmas all about?

First Boy:  Being happy and being as nice as you can.  Even though you’re meant to be nice the whole year but people tend to be nicer in December because santy is coming. 

Second Boy:  Joy.  Jesus Christ.   Santa!

Third Boy:  Friends and family. 

Smallest Boy:  Oohhh.  Like having rakes of days off school.  We be nice and we get presents.   Mammy, that’s all. 

Why does Rudolph have a red nose?

First Boy:  I think it might be because he like, (silence for a long time) This is a hard question.   I don’t really know actually. 

Second Boy:  Coz he has a really bad cold.  

Third Boy:  Because he needs to guide the sleigh so they don’t crash and Christmas is ruined. 

Smallest Boy:  Oh, coz it’s so bright.  No!  Because it’s so dark. 

Do you know any Christmas jokes?

First Boy:  Yeah!  What’s the difference between a snowman and a snowwoman?  Snow balls!!!  

Second Boy:  (Thinking for ages.)   No.

Third Boy:  What do snowmen put on their sandwiches or lunch?   Chilli sauce!

Smallest Boy:  No.

Wishing you all a merry christmas and whatever you get up to, it is with safety and joy in your hearts!  Here's to a mighty 2017.